Flat Out, Teaks North, Jackson Bend & Soaring Empire Return Saturday
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s 5-year-old Soaring Empire, who captured the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park early last year over a field that included Rule and Morning Line, is back to defend his title in the one mile test on Saturday.
The Hal’s Hope will share the spotlight on Saturday’s 11-race program with the $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G3) to be run at 1 1/16 miles on turf and a full field of 12 with Grade 1 winners Teaks North and Flat Out prominent in a wide-open contest.
Jockey Julien Leparoux will be aboard Soaring Empire in the Hal’s Hope as he faces eight rivals, most notably Robert LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm’s 5-year-old Jackson Bend. Soaring Empire will be making his first start since capturing the Majestic Light Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park on July 31 after a troubled runner-up finish in the Salvator Mile (G3) earlier that month.
A son of Empire Maker trained by Cam Gambolati, Soaring Empire beat a good field in the Hal’s Hope. He went on to finish a good second to Tackleberry in both the Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) at seven furlongs and Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) at a mile. His second in the Gulfstream Sprint came despite gate issues.
“He’s matured since then,” said trainer Gambolati. “He just walked into the gate with no problems in those last two races at Monmouth. He should have won the Salvatore Mile (bumped three-sixteenths). I think he can handle two turns now, and if he runs good in this race and finishes, we’ll likely point him for the ($500,000) Donn Handicap (G1) (Feb. 11). He’s run well off a layoff before.”
Jackson Bend will likely challenge Soaring Empire for the role of favorite in his first start since a good third-place finish behind Amazombie in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Jockey John Velazquez will be aboard Jackson Bend breaking from the rail for trainer Nick Zito, who has indicated his 2012 campaign would be directed toward the sprint division.
A chestnut son of Hear No Evil, Jackson Bend has been a major player in all three of his years racing while earning $1.25 million with a 22-7-6-3 record. Third in the 2010 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, he was turned back to sprint distances beginning last summer at Saratoga where he won the James Marvin Stakes in July and Forego Stakes (G1) in early September, both at seven furlongs.
“He looks tremendous,” said Zito. “I just hope it’s not too tough a race first time back. It’s good race to come back in, and that’s what he needs. He’s best at seven furlongs. He’s also a good miler. He ran second to Uncle Mo (Kelso Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park on Oct. 1), and if Uncle Mo wasn’t in it, he would have won.”
Completing the field for the Hal’s Hope are Derek and Kimberly Paul’s Sky Venture, Godolphin Racing’s Sangaree, Live Oak Plantation’s Successful Mission, Just For Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment, Robert LaPenta’s Our Dark Knight, Jim Bakke and Jerry Isbister’s Cool Blue Red Hot and Pattons Creek Farm’s Will’s Wildcat.
Teaks North Leads Wide-Open Field in Fort Lauderdale
Resolute Group Stable’s 5-year-old gelding Teaks North established his national credentials last year posting a 25-to-1 upset victory in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) going 1 1/8 miles for trainer Justin Sallusto and went on to another major score in the 11-furlong United Nations Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park in early July.
Teaks North gets another campaign going in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes, a race Sallusto hopes will set him up for a more lucrative spot two weeks later in the $300,000 Florida Sunshine Millions over the course on Jan. 28. Jockey Juan Leyva gets the call on the son of Northern Afleet as he makes his first start since a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) going 12 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
The intriguing contender in the Fort Lauderdale will be Preston Stable’s 6-year-old Flat Out, a leader in the handicap division last season for trainer Charles ‘Scooter’ Dickey. Jockey Alex Solis rides the son of Flatter in his first start since finishing third in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25 after a fifth-place effort over the track in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on Nov. 5.
Flat Out will be making his career debut on turf in the Fort Lauderdale. He emerged as a handicap division leader last year winning the Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park by 6 ½ lengths in early July, runner-up efforts in the Whitney Handicap (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) back at Belmont on Oct. 1 before a good try behind Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup.
“We’ve thought about trying him on turf for some time,” said Dickey Wednesday morning. “We worked him on turf at Churchill last spring and he handled it just fine. We were deciding whether to run him in the Stephen Foster or the Firecracker and decided on the Stephen Foster (sixth on June 18, beaten 2 ¾ lengths by winner).
“We worked him on the turf here and decided on this race for a combination of reasons. We still want to try him on the turf and the timing is right to get to the ($500,000) Donn Handicap (G1). If we waited and ran him in the Sunshine Millions (Classic on Jan. 28) it would probably be too quick back to make the Donn (Feb. 11).”
Certain to attract plenty of support in the Fort Lauderdale is Black Rock Stables’ 4-year-old Silver Medallion with jockey Javier Castellano in the saddle for trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of Badge of Silver was impressive winning the Tropical Turf Handicap (G3) last out at Calder on Dec. 2 after a good try finishing third in the Commonwealth Turf (G3) over the Churchill course in early November.
Completing the field for the Fort Lauderdale are Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown, Tom Walters’ Santiva, Michael Bruder’s Guys Reward, Bruno Schickedanz’ Yummy With Butter, Juddmonte Farm’s Mutual Trust, Quantum Racing Team #1’s Mambo Meister, Robert Harvey’s Hollinger, Mrs. S.K. Johnston, Jr.’s Hoofit and Lael Stable’s Kindergarden Kid.
Cool Blue Red Hot, also entered the Hal’s Hope, is entered ‘main track only’ in the Fort Lauderdale along with Blackacre Farm’s Flatter This.